Moderation is Awkward

There it is… that word again: Moderation. You’ve heard it countless times, and for some reason, you still don’t feel very comfortable with it.

Whether you’re thinking about your struggles with your diet or your exercise program or your secret knitting hobby,  you have probably been told “everything in moderation!”

So what is moderation, really?

Moderation (noun): The avoidance of excess or extremes.

If moderation is the avoidance of excess or extremes, then what are these extremes?

Avoiding Fitness Extremes

The CDC recommends at LEAST 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week and 2 or more days of resistance training that hits all major muscles groups. However, we often see athletes and fitness enthusiasts training way  more than this. So what is extreme?

Extreme when it comes to fitness should not be measured by how many miles you run a week or how many workouts you do a week. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:

*Am I feeling overly tired?
*Are my joints hurting more than usual?
*Did I develop an injury that won’t go away?
*Is my performance decreasing during my workouts?
*Am I having trouble sleeping?
*Do I feel less hungry?
*Do I feel more agitated or moody than usual?
*Am I losing more hair than usual?
*Do I feel sore all the time?

If you answered yes to more than 3 or more of these questions, you are probably overtraining and going into the extreme.

While you might think working out 7 days a week is better than 0 days a week, you need to be mindful about how your body FEELS. The whole point of exercising and eating better is so that you can sustain these changes LONG-TERM! If you’re exercising to the point of having issues as seen above, you will become demotivated, fall off the bandwagon, and might get some not so pretty injuries along the way.

It’s funny how we’ve made ourselves believe that pain during exercise is normal and part of “getting in shape.” But our bodies know us better than we think they do. And the thing is, you don’t have to push to the point of pain to see results, I promise.

Avoiding Nutrition Extremes

No carb or low carb diets are all the rage these days. While there are many success stories to this approach, many people struggle to maintain this type of diet long-term and begin to feel chronically fatigued. While I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with eliminating some carbs from our diets (as Americans, we basically live off our pizza, beer, donuts, and sausage biscuits), we do need to re-approach how we look at them.

Carbs are ESSENTIAL for our bodies to function properly. I mean, Michael Phelps eats the majority of meals from carbs every day to fuel his training for crying out loud. And yes, of course I know we aren’t Michael Phelps, but that doesn’t mean we can should just be “carb-free”.

When you think of carbs, most of the time you’re thinking of donuts, cake, chips, etc. But none of these foods are in any way nutritionally dense.  In other words, they don’t provide you with any real vitamins/minerals that are beneficial to you. They’re empty calories and  loaded with tons of sugar and unhealthy fats.

When we think of carbs, we need to be thinking of nutritionally dense carbs: brown rice, starchy vegetables, fruits (with the skin), sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat products, etc. But not only that…we need to think about PORTIONS.

Portions are a make or break when it comes to weight loss. If you mess this part up, you’re not going to have a fun time. Carbs should make up 45-65% of the calories for the day, a guideline set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Carbs are extremely important, especially if you are getting active and doing cardio and resistance training.

So how does that break down per day? Say you eating 2000 calories, then that would mean, you need roughly 900-1300 calories worth of carbs a day. Since there are 4 calories/gram of carbs, that would equate to 225-325g a day. A portion of carbohydrates is 15g. This is equal to 1/3 cup of pasta, 1 piece of toast, 1/4 of a bagel etc. A portion of carbohydrate is not just a “serving” on your nutrition label, it’s literally defined as the amount that gives you 15g.

So I know it might sound confusing. So let’s break this down meal-wise (this is NOT including fats and proteins, JUST breaking down carbs):

Breakfast: 45g
* Two pieces of toast (30g) + 1/2 cup orange juice (15g)
Morning snack: 30g
*3/4 cup blueberries (15g) + 2/3 cup fat free plain yogurt (15g)
Lunch: 45g
*2/3 cup rice (30g) + 1/2 cup starchy veggies (15g)
Afternoon snack: 30g
*1.5 oz pretzels
Dinner: 90g
*1 cup pasta (45g) + 1 cup milk (15g) + 2 1oz dinner rolls (30g)
Night Snack: 15g
   *3 cups popped popcorn
Total Carbs: 255g

Just taking into carbs, the above is an example of healthy carbs eaten in a day that meets recommended guidelines. If you’d like to figure out how to count carbs, there are plenty of good cheat sheets you can find online. Google is your best friend here.

The point is, you can have your carbs and eat them too…BUT! it does matter what type of carbs and how much. It may feel strange eating carbs when everyone else is avoiding them, but we promise you will see results either way as long as you are watching portions and making healthy choices.

In Summary

Avoiding fitness and diet extremes is important for overall long-term consistency.  I would hope you want to feel good and look good for more than just a few months, right? In order to stick to a plan long-term, it’s time to consider:

1) How is my body feeling? Am I pushing too hard?
2) Am I eating in a way that supports my goals and in a way I can eat long-term?

By striving to avoid extremes and finding your own moderation, you will set yourself up for long-term success that will keep you feeling, looking, and performing well.

Don’t Bend and Snap: 3 Reasons Your Lower Back Hurts when Exercising

When’s the last time you’ve experienced low back pain? Today? Yesterday? 60 seconds ago? We get it. It happens.

The good thing is, you’re not alone. It’s been estimated roughly 80% of Americans experience some form of low back pain in their lifetime. That’s 8 out of 10 people. Thought you were in the cool club? Think again.

Today’s objective is to give you knowledge to understand why you might experience low back when exercising.  For those you are suffering from serious, diagnosed lower back issues, we kindly ask you skip this post and listen to your doctor’s advice.

We hope that after this post, you won’t be Bending and Snapping or having any more Legally Blonde moments.

Okay, let’s get down to business. Typically, lower back pain when exercising is usually due to one or more of the following:

  1. Lack of core stability
  2. Loss of neutral spine
  3. Poor posture outside the gym

LACK OF CORE STABILITY:

There may be a time in your life that maybe a friend or workout buddy mentioned that you should “strengthen your core” to help your lower back pain. Usually when we think strengthening the core, we tend to think of doing endless crunches hoping we’ll be the next cover model for the newest fitness magazine.

In reality, we need to be training more than just the superficial muscles and training the deep inner core muscles that help support our spine. These muscles include the transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and the pelvic floor. When these muscles are strong, we prevent heavy loads going straight to our lower back. These muscles serve as a shield to protect our spine! We won’t get into all the details in this posts, but for a more detailed explanation of the physiology behind this, please check out our previous post here.

So now you must be thinking, “Well..how do I know if I lack core stability?” Well, it’s pretty easy to find out. To do so, lay on your back. Get your feet off the ground, legs 90/90, and slowly straight one leg out toward the ground (see below) – WITHOUT letting your lower back arch off the ground.

Planks

If you look like the left picture and have a large arch in your back, you probably lack some core stability. It’s okay, it happens. However, lacking core stability predispositions us to lower back pain. After all, the weaker our core is, the more load our spine has to take. If you need some ideas on how to increase your core stability, check out the exercises below:

The above exercises are a good place to get started. Prioritize these at the beginning of your workout until you can really master them. Remember, you shouldn’t feel any lower back pain during any of these exercises.

LOSS OF NEUTRAL SPINE

Any exercise we do in the gym requires us to be aware of how we are positioning our spine. Why? Because excessive flexion and extension of the spine over long periods of time can cause lower back issues such as herniated discs, arthritis, etc. Moving around with poor mechanics leads to injury. Period.

If you are experiencing pain when exercising, really have a heart to heart and ask yourself: is my back neutral?

What does that mean? Neutral means just not overly arched and not overly rounded. You might not even know what your back’s doing at this point, so take a look at two common exercise examples below.

Plank

Planks. We know. We hate them too. But we’ve got to talk about them. If you’re experiencing low back pain when doing planks, check out what your lower back is doing. Take a look below:

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 4.03.11 PM.png

Notice in the first image, the lower back is extremely arched. This leads to tons of pressure being put on your lower back when in reality, the plank is meant to strengthen the core so that you don’t have all the load going to your lower back.

Now, take a look at the second image. Notice a difference? We can now see my back still has a neutral curve rather than an excessively arched one.

Tips for a good plank include:

  • Squeezing your glutes slightly to help pull your back into neutral alignment
    Drawing the rib cage down so there is no flare – thinking of your sternum and belly button being held together by a piece of string.
  • Push the ground away from you. Don’t let your chest fall toward the ground. If I were to put the back of my hand across your upper back, you should be pushing into my hand.

Squats

Squats. We hate them and we love them…except when they start giving us lower back pain.

Many people get lower back pain during squats, and this can be due to many reasons which we won’t be able to fit all into one blog post. However, one of the most common reasons because of losing neutral spine throughout the entire movement. See below for more details.

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 4.10.44 PM

Rounded back

This is a squat with a rounded back. If we were add even more weight, this would be problematic because of all the stress on our discs. Rounded backs during squats could be due to a few things:

1) Tight hamstrings: If your hamstrings are tight, they’re going to pull on your lower back and cause your lower back to round. Implement this hamstring stretch into your routine:

IMG_0658

2) Lack of ankle dorsiflexion: If you can barely touch your knee to a wall from a few inches away, you’ve got some work to do. Lack of ankle mobility will cause your lower back to round to try to pick up the slack. Add the following mobilization into your routine:

IMG_0662

3) Lack of core stability: Ahh, here we go with core stability again. Can’t get enough of it, right? Add more core stability exercises to your routine such as the ones linked earlier in the blogpost.

Arched back

This is a squat with an arched back. Again, the discs are compressed and can produce pain. This can be due to a few things:

1. Lack of core stability (AGAIN! Seeing a trend? Check out those exercises linked earlier in this blogpost for some exercises)

2. Tight hip flexors: Having tight hip flexors due to excessive sitting or other factors creates dysfunction in the spine but shifting our hips back, creating an excessive arch in the lower back. To help correct this, make sure to add this hip flexor stretch before performing your squats

IMG_0661

3. Lack of awareness: Many times we’re not even sure what our lower back is doing during a squat. To practice proper squat form, have a friend videotape you or record yourself going through the movement. If your back is arching and you’ve addressed the two issues above, set up a box or bench behind you to squat to without moving into an excessive arch in the back. Master neutral spine in a smaller range of motion before attempting to squat full-depth. Check out the video below for an example of this:

 

Neutral Back

Let’s look at the third picture from above. Notice now there is no excessive arch or flexion of the spine. A normal lordotic curve is present. This is what we should strive for with our form.
POOR POSTURE OUTSIDE THE GYM

Unfortunately, we can’t just act like we’re athletes when we’re at the gym. If you workout for 30-60 minutes a few times a week, what are you doing for the other hundreds of hours a week you aren’t exercising?

We got to be real with ourselves. Most of us sit at our desks all day and probably get anywhere from 1000-5000 steps per day which means we are, let’s face it, sedentary.  Our core gets weak, hips get tight, glutes become underactive, and our shoulders round. These issues combined with going to the gym to do the exercises listed above is bound to cause lower back issues. Why? Because spinal alignment is based around the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are attached to it. If muscles around it are weak and others overactive, this can reposition the spinal to suboptimal positions over time.

If you find yourself sitting for the better part of your day, it’s time to increase your steps and standing up more. Here are some tips:

  1. Get up to get a small cup of water instead of a large cup of water when you’re at work. This will force you to get up out of your seat more often than carrying around one of those huge water bottles.
  2. Place things you need away from you. Need to staple some papers? Keep your stapler in another room or across your office so you get out of your seat more.
  3. Park further away from your workplace. This will automatically force you to get some extra steps in.
  4. Talking on your cell phone? Stand up when you take calls and pace around the room.
  5. Invest in a stand-up desk. Amazon has lots of different ones, like this one.

Additionally, working out with weights isn’t something you should just go and do without a proper warm-up. If you sit all day, I suggest adding in the following to your warm-up routine:

Hip flexor stretch

IMG_0661.jpg

Foam roll your calves and mobilize them

IMG_0662

Thoracic windmills

 

Wallsides

 

Glute bridges

 

90/90 hip stretch

IMG_0666

In Summary

Low back pain sucks, and it’s a huge bummer when you get it while working out. Today we have discussed three possible reasons why your low back hurts and how to tackle them:

  1. Lack of core stability
  2. Loss of neutral spine
  3. Poor posture outside the gym

By addressing the above, you might see your low back pain lessen and hopefully disappear with time. Remember, it will take purposeful, consistent action to solve these issues, and if you are still experiencing pain, we recommend always checking with your doctor for further guidance.

Due to the prevalence of lower back pain when exercising, we make sure our clients do not push through pain.  Our programs also dive even more in-depth as to what might be causing the issue, assuming there aren’t any serious diagnosed back issues. We encourage you to bookmark our main page and check back regularly for more posts and tips.

Breaking Fads: 6 Ways to Sort Fitness Fad from Fitness Fact

“A new diet has just emerged!”
“Get a flat stomach without strenuous exercise!”
“Greasy, highly-saturated fat bacon will now make you lose weight!”
“See how Scarlett Johansson got in her best shape for The Avengers in 30 days!”

False advertising and exaggerated claims plague our news feed and creep into our subconscious every single day. This concept is not new. Bold, exciting albeit fictitious headlines have been used to market pop-culture and health magazines long before the age of social media. You may recall similar statements to the ones above plastered on the covers of magazines in grocery stores (strategically placed at the check-out line) as you waited and pretended not to be interested in what the “20 Ab Secrets Fitness Pros don’t Want You to Know” actually entail.

With the social media boom in recent years, which has been incredible for reconnecting with old friends, close family, and the “yeah, I kind of know them” acquaintances, the rate at which this unfounded fitness information travels has gone rampant. Not only does misinformation spread quickly, but marketing has gotten smarter. Supplement companies and product advertisements know that we want to see the truth before we believe it, and they have gotten very clever at mixing scientific half-truths into their marketing as they repackage old fads into new ones (does the ketogenic diet look similar to the Atkins and Southbeach diet?)

There are so many instances in the while working with clients that we encounter people who saw minimal results when they tried a weight loss supplement, the trendiest new diet, or performed the “300 Workout” for 30 days only to find that they didn’t look like Gerard Butler at the end of their 30 day plan.

300 Meme

It becomes more and more difficult for people to see great results because very often they are following the newest fitness fad: exciting and flashy, but methods that either don’t work or it don’t work long-term.

Though I could probably talk for days on each of the following marketing tactics that lead people astray, I’ve condensed it to a short list of 6 ways to sort fitness fad from fitness fact.

1. A Quick Fix

This is perhaps the easiest one to spot. Be aware of marketing that purports that their method(s) can cause a massive, unbelievable change in a short amount of time. While “massive change” and “short amount of time” are subjective, usually these claims look like “How Rita lost 20 lbs. in 20 days” or “Zedd packed on 15 lbs. of muscle in a month. Find out how!”

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a healthy, sustainable weight loss plan is going to see 1-2 lbs. weight loss per week on a good week. Not as marketable as the magazine covers, maybe, but considering it might take someone 2 years to gain 20 lbs., it’s still a great deal to knock it out in a fraction of the time and it’s definitely more realistic to be able to tackle this weight loss goal aiming for 20 weeks (or less) as opposed to an unbelievable, unrealistic 20 days.

For muscle growth it takes “several months for visible changes to occur, as they happen only after thousands of individual muscle fibers have grown larger” according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Be on the lookout for claims that refute these guidelines and try to remember that fitness is a process, and following a consistent, quality process equals progress.

2. Extreme Measures

You’re in a conversation and someone says something along the lines of “I lost 10 lbs. by completely cutting out ________.” Common examples include the ketogenic diet, fat-free diets, the Atkins diet, the Hogwarts diet, etc. This usually indicates that extreme measures were taken for a short duration of time, which SEEM to be a key to weight loss or whatever their goal is; causation without correlation.

The problem here is we don’t know the full story of these testimonials and what was occurring before they made this change. They may say that they cut nearly all carbohydrates in order to lose weight, however, it’s highly unlikely that they cut all those healthy high-fiber, low-sugar carbs out of their diets to accomplish this: the green beans, the quinoa, the sugar-free oatmeal, the carrots etc. These are far different from other, less healthy carb-dense choices such as cake, doughnuts, white breads and many others which are highly processed and are definitely not as ideal of a choice.

To simplify:

Protein = Calories
Fats = Calories
Carbs = Calories

All of these are essential to a well balanced diet if choosing minimally processed, whole foods. By cutting one out completely, you can definitely see an immediate response in weight loss, but that it’s actually the result of cutting calories, not necessarily that the macronutrient eliminated is “bad.” You also lose the benefits of the missing macronutrient as well (Carbs help with muscle growth/performance and brain function in the form of glycogen. Fats help deliver and utilize important vitamins.) Sugars, a sub category of carbs, are a different story and stretch beyond the scope of this post, but you can rest easy knowing that you can eat carbs and fats and they won’t make you fat especially if you choose the healthier types in moderation.

3. Marketing Tactics

Even under protection of organizations such as the Federal Trade Commissions, it’s still very common that many programs and products use dishonest marketing tactics to sell their brand. It is not uncommon for many supplement companies to advertise their product as being used by an athlete or competitor who “used their product to get in the best shape of their life.”

What they don’t explicitly tell you is that the athlete had already been training for a number of years, usually at a professional level, and in many cases has used illegal performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids (this is true for both men and women) at some point in their lives.

My opinion on the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs aside, I think we all can agree that any program or product that tells its customers “if it worked for me, it can work for you” is unsubstantiated and loses great credibility when delivered by someone who has utilized illegal drugs to alter their physiology. Not to say these people don’t work hard for their results, they’re just not telling the whole story as it pertains to the product.

4. Credentials of Presenter

Who is delivering the information to you? What do the true professionals say? While there are very knowledgeable people at all education levels in fitness, credibility and credentials do matter a lot. Fitness professionals have varying levels of degrees and certifications, however, even without a PhD in their field, they can typically cite a credible source of where they’re getting their information from.

More than likely though, we hear anecdotal references from Bob at the office or Mary who heard from a friend who read from an infographic that if we cut carbs, our bodies will turn to fat for energy. This should raise an alarm, and we should look further as to what the research and people who study research have to say. There may be more to it than what’s on the surface.

Even if you know or work with a personal trainer, I advise doing research or even politely asking where their information might be coming from so that you can learn more. While I have worked with many phenomenal trainers over the years, I have met my fair share of trainers who provide some of the same misinformation we’re trying to debunk and challenge in this post.

5. Do Real-life Observations Match the Testimonials?

This is a quick section but I’ll highlight a few examples:

• Marketing tells us the key to weight loss is cardio, yet we see most people who are in great physical condition do more weight training and only moderate amounts of cardio.

• We’re told carbs make us fat, but we see athletes who use carbs every day to fuel their bodies to get stronger, faster, and stay conditioned.

• Media portrays that you have to exercise like a maniac to get in great shape, but we see most people who stay healthy year round employ methods of consistency over intensity. They push themselves to see results, but they don’t push over the limit.

6. The “Medicine” for your “Sickness”

This part may upset supplement enthusiasts, but I am going to level with you: Most supplements have little evidence to support that they do what they say they do. Supplements are able to sell their consumable products under guidelines that are not regulated by the FDA the same way that our foods in the supermarket are regulated. This means that in many cases, we don’t even know what we are getting or what the concentration is in these products as they are usually listed under a proprietary blend: a mask to hide how much of each ingredient is in their product. In some cases, especially with “fat burners” they can cause life-threatening harm until it becomes a widespread case worth pulling from the shelf (anyone remember Ephedra?)

Some substances do have evidence to support that they can improve performance (creatine and caffeine are some of the very few) however, even these more beneficial ones are useless if used as a substitute for other healthy practices. A healthy protein supplement may be recommended if you’re not getting enough protein in your natural diet.

What’s most troubling about supplements though is that the products are often marketed as medicine even if subliminally. Even the bottles for most supplements mimic medication in their design and layout. This is to tap into your subconscious that these “fat burners” will make you better for what supplement companies want you to think of as a “weight-gain illness.” Disguising themselves as medicine bottles also builds trust in their product. If it looks like medicine, it must be backed by science and therefore must be safe.

ALT TAG
Side-by-side comparison of a medication and a weight-loss supplement. Which is which?

Like I mentioned earlier : dishonest marketing is getting more sophisticated and harder to spot.

In Summary:

In an age where the truth is harder to find and distrust is at an all-time high, it is important for us to be aware of the information presented to us and to be able to sort the fad from the facts. Not everyone spreads misinformation with the intent of tricking others. In fact, I believe most people are actually operating out of benevolence when passing on the latest success trends to others.

The problem is that many times, especially in health and fitness, is that these methods simply sound good at face value and miss so many other important factors that are important for long-term success. Causation without correlation.

As always a moderate, consistent, and well rounded approach always works best and is something we at Eon Fitness employ in all of our exercise programs whether working with clients in-person or through our online personal training programs. If you found this information to be useful, please feel free to share it with your friends, and leave us a comment below.

Why You’re Not Losing Weight

There are many reasons why you might not be losing weight. Weight loss occurs when we are burning more calories than we consume through a combination of both food intake and exercise. If either of these components is lacking, weight loss can slow down. With so much information out there, it can be hard to determine how many calories you need to be eating to lose weight. Today’s post will touch on how to figure out if you are eating too little, too much, or if you are right on target for meeting your weight loss goals.

I like to break down the kinds of people who are struggling to lose weight into two categories:

    1. Those who are not eating enough to lose weight
    2. Those are are eating too much to lose weight

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Have Shoulder Pain? Read this.

Shoulder injuries are pretty common. From torn rotator cuffs to torn labrums and SLAP tears, there are lots of way to mess up your shoulder. Most people think that they “tweaked” their shoulder and then went to the doctor. The surprising thing however is that most shoulder injuries can be easily prevented with proper exercise technique and programming. Today’s post will take a preventative side on how you can prevent future shoulder injuries.

Shoulder Anatomy

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Glute Training: The Basics

In today’s post, I will touch on the basics behind how to train your glutes effectively. I will discuss why we must train our glutes, basic anatomy, and demonstrate and describe 5 basic exercises you can do to strengthen all parts of the glutes for optimal development and strength.

The research I’ve included on this post comes from one of most knowledgeable coaches in the field, Bret Contreras.

So what’s so great about glutes, anyway?!

Your glutes are surprisingly the largest muscle in your body. Without going into too much of the scientific details, your glutes are responsible for several different functions: extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation. Therefore, all essential glute exercises will fall under one of these functions.

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